Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Council caught between a rock and a hard place in battle for Gibraltar Farm

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has endorsed his planning inspector’s recommendation and granted permission for 450 new homes at Gibraltar Farm, at Hempstead in Medway, despite major local opposition.

Landowners, the Attwood family, had been refused permission by Medway Council to develop the greenfield site in August 2014, but they appealed it and went to public inquiry in October last year.

The planning inspector noted that although the scheme would clash with development plan policies seeking to restrict housing growth in the countryside, and to protect an area of local landscape importance (ALLI) in the nearby Capstone Valley, a key influence was Medway Council’s lack of a five-year housing land supply. It is estimated the supply is at 2.8 years.

Sajid Javed agreed with the inspector that the housing land supply shortfall is so great in Medway, and the pressure on sites so significant, that it is inevitable greenfield land will have to be released for development.

He accepted the scheme would not cause critical harm to the character and appearance of the ALLI, and noted the council’s policy allows for development in such areas where the social and economic benefits outweigh the local priority to conserve the landscape.

Ironically to many protesters, Sajid Javed attached considerable weight in his decision to the provision of open space.

The site – close to the M2 on the southern edge of Gillingham – can now go ahead, with an allowance of 25 per cent of the 450 new homes being classified as affordable.

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